Nintendo Wii U premiere event: Celebrating a casual gaming revolution in a very posh setting?

As an aspiring academic in the field of Game Studies it was very exciting to be able to be a part of a disclosed important event in the booming videogame industry. Thanks to my good friend Robin I got access to visit Nintendo’s Wii U premiere launch party and to be one of the first people in the Netherlands to play Nintendo’s new console. However, on multiple aspects, the gathering left a strange and sour taste in my mouth, and it wasn’t due to the food!

On a global level, the event was ridiculously posh. I understand that these events are usually for press only, and are treated like a film premiere, but I felt like Nintendo did their best to appeal to the countless Dutch celebrities that were scheduled to appear, rather than appeal to the crowd of interested small gaming company press. I have no objection to celebrities being there, but most of them showing up purely to pick up their free Wii U console and head home minutes later rubbed me the wrong way. Although I’m glad that a lot of the people I spoke with on site agreed with me on that. While complimentary snacks and drinks are common for such event I have to note that the choice of snacks seemed, again, to be directed at the high society visitors. Strange globs of pink goo and chips made of rose petals are not very common in these types of events.

On to the showroom floor then. Firstly, I was annoyed that there was no representative of Nintendo present that could answer a few questions I had about the future of Nintendo as a casual gaming console, and their approach to games for health, like the Wii Fit. Secondly, for an event that advertised ‘unlimited play’ I felt I was treated very poorly by the Nintendo folks at the stands. I felt I was being rushed through the demo, treated like I have never played a game before or being totally ignored if I had questions. The worst offence was when me and my friend were trying out the 5 minute New Super Mario Bros Wii U demo. We were a few minutes in and were nearly finished when the Nintendo representative paused the game and told us we had to go since the people from the Dutch TV-show Game Kings wanted to film now. We weren’t allowed to finished the few minutes we had left to go, got our controllers casually taken out of our hands and got told to go away and come back when they were done. I felt very mistreated.

The games I did get to test were Zombi U, Rayman Legends and Batman: Arkham City. The Wii U tablet controller feels very strange when holding it and it takes a while getting used to. The games controlled fine, but still the tablet kept on feeling very clunky. I do have to say that the controller went haywire no less than three times during my ten minute Batman demo, not a good impression from that. Zombi U was frankly a bit dull and didn’t offer anything new, not even the with the new controller, I’ve seen it all before on the DS. Rayman Legends was great fun though, although the game music (which plays a reasonably big part in the game) was muted. From what I’ve seen I haven’t had any revelations on how this new development would have any lasting impact on the console and I’m prone to predict it will go in the same direction as the original Wii. The first few launch games will make an optimal use of the possibilities, and the countless games that follow will have nothing more than a glorified map or inventory system.

In conclusion, the PR for this event was huge. Unfortunately, for a company that loves to address the casual gamer in everyone, the treatment many people received (I wasn’t alone in my findings) seemed to portray the exact opposite. I am definitely not sold on the Wii U, this will still not be a console for the hardcore gamer but rather an expanded version of what the Wii already was. I don’t see a problem there however, Nintendo is a company that is set on making a profit, and their marketing is directed at everyone and is very effective. Yet for a company that promised us they would pay more attention to the people who loved the N64 and GameCube, I still feel a bit left in the dust. Remember Nintendo: if you want to address the casual gamers, then cloak your events in a casual setting rather than this strange contradicted party.

Thanks to Robin for inviting me to take part of this event. Read her thoughts on her blog here:

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